San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

IN SECURITY–An Interview with Michael Mussman and Taberah Joy Holloway

on June 1, 2017

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Last year we interviewed Michael Mussman about his 2016 San Diego Fringe play “Backstage Drama”. This year, he’s back with a musical! San Diego Playwrights spoke with Michael and director Taberah Joy Holloway about “In Security”.

Tell us about your newest project. What is “In Security” all about?

Michael: “In Security” is a musical spoof on corporate America. June is the only woman in her IT department, and she’s also the most competent. She comes across some damning information about her company, Hexagon Security. Will she keep the secret to herself, or will she blow the whistle? Oh, and there’s also a love interest with the new guy on the team, who’s also digging up dirt on the company.

Taberah: “In Security”, for me, is a story about a woman doing her best with somewhat limited options. She wants to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing in that situation?

My perspective is colored by my mother who was the only female electrical engineer at her company in the 1980s in the rural south. My own experience working in corporate law (where my starting class had four women in a pool of seventeen) also informs the direction.

It’s a funny show. For me, what is most important is telling a real story about real people while entertaining.

Tell us about yourselves.

Taberah: I am a kinesthetic human. Movement and the way we move through space fascinates me. Directing is surprisingly fun. I first debuted as an artist in the 2015 Atlanta Fringe. I tried to do everything in that first show (write, direct, act, produce). I have learned SOOO much. My main lesson is do one thing at a time. It’s easier and the product is better when there are multiple hands in the making. Since moving here two years ago, the San Diego theatre community welcomed me with giving opportunities to write, act, and direct. I am so grateful to Michael for allowing me to direct and to Thelma for connecting us.

Michael: I’m originally from Silicon Valley. This is my third time writing a show for Fringe. If you saw “Backstage Drama” at Diversionary Black Box last year, then you’ll remember Romo, the star of that show. She’s returning this year in the role of June. And this time she gets to show off her powerful voice.

Where did the idea come from, and how did you start?

Michael: One night I ran into Jordan Liberman at an improv show. Jordan is the accompanist for Minor Suspension, a long-running musical improv troupe. I sort of jokingly suggested we should write a musical together. Little did I know that Jordan was about to call my bluff. Next thing I know, I’m spending my weekends at Jordan’s house, jamming in front of his upright piano.

I worked for a huge corporation for seven years, and a startup for two years after that. A lot of what I witnessed — the office politics, the gossip, the disregard for talent — inspired me to create these characters. One of them is a bro who doesn’t realize his jokes are offensive. There’s a guy who cannot figure out PowerPoint. And there’s the young woman in marketing who never speaks up for herself, even when the guys are stepping on her. I put all those memories into the story. Anyone who’s ever worked in a cubicle will recognize a lot in this show.

What challenges have you faced, and what success have you enjoyed?

Taberah: There have been very few challenges. I have a great producer and musical director. And the actors! Did I mention how fantastically funny the actors are? Rehearsals are fun. I like working with this group of people. Everyone gets along, and we all want to tell a story together. The ultimate success is how all these talented people are working toward a common goal. I am proud of all my actors, and everything they bring to the table.

Michael: At first it I made it very difficult for myself. I assumed that I would just write some poetry and then hand over a libretto for Jordan to set to music. That did not work. Thankfully, Jordan taught me that most contemporary songs don’t rhyme very much. The rhythm and emotion are what matter.

I’m most proud of our song “Rumor / Scandal.” I didn’t have a very clear idea to start with — all I knew was I wanted it to sound like the opening number from Sondheim’s “Company,” where you have these overlapping voices all saying the name “Bobby” over and over. So I just started typing up fragments, the kinds of whispers you might overhear in a hallway or restroom. No one phrase makes sense by itself, but when you put them all together with music they’re zany and fun.

What makes this production special?

Michael: First, the venue. I really wanted to do a site-specific work. And thanks to the great people at Fringe, we got a space that actually looks like a corporate office, with a receptionist desk and everything! We’re staging “In Security” at SD Art Institute’s project space, which is on the first floor of Horton Plaza. I plan to serve coffee and bagels, just like a real-life business meeting.

Also, considering this is her first musical, I’m blown away by Taberah’s directing skills! She really got the story on a very deep level, and she has revealed all kinds of nuance in the characters.

What’s next for you?

Taberah: I have a feeling this show will lead naturally into my next creative project. It’s not evident to me what that is now because I am knee deep in bringing this show to life. I may do more storytelling at venues around town. We’ll see!

Michael: I’m shopping around to other theatres to see if we can get “In Security” remounted in other cities. Being in Fringe means we only get 45 minutes, so I’ll need to add a few more scenes and songs to make this a full length show. This whole experience has shown me that musical theatre really is my first love. So I definitely want to collaborate with more musicians, and I hope I get to work with Jordan again.

Thanks for talking with us, Michael and Taberah! And break a leg with “In Security”!

For more information and tickets, visit https://sdfringe.ticketleap.com/in-security/.

 

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